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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Antarctica - Jan 6 to 7 - Days 10 and 11 – A Difficult 36 Hours

Yesterday we learned that we would not be touring Ushuaia on our last day, rather we would depart the ship at 7:00am, get bussed to a hotel, and spend 12 hours sitting in a hotel ballroom. Atlas already cut our cruise by one day, now we would lose a tour. Shelly and I were not happy about this at all. We went to breakfast at 6:00am and ate as much as we could for that early hour. We watched as Ricardo, the head butler, and the Expedition Team prepared and carted off trays of food and drink to those quarantined. We said goodbye to our servers, Bodiono and Nares, and went to the lounge to wait to be called for our debarkation.


We boarded the bus to find Atlas had no staff on the bus, rather they outsourced the logistics to a local tour company. Our guide was very nice and gave us a briefing of what the day would be like. We arrived at La Hayas Hotel, billed as a 5-star hotel. It’s not. It does have a beautiful view of the Beagle Channel and the Andes Mountains, but it is old and worn, and has not been updated in years.


We were ushered to our ballroom by 8:00am and sat with Jonathan, Monica, Jacqueline, and Debbie and Barry. It was cold and cavernous. We sat at a round table, and the chairs weren't very comfortable. We were to get a mid-morning snack, lunch, and dinner. Guests hunted down electrical outlets to charge their phones. We tried to make the best of the situation.


We needed a negative antigen test to enter the U.S. so the testing started almost immediately. Shelly and I got our nostrils swabbed and went back to the ballroom to await our fate. 20 minutes past, then 30. After an hour without hearing anything, we were confident we were negative. Not so for a dozen others. A tour operator would walk into the ballroom and call someone’s name. They would talk briefly, then the guest collected their luggage and was escorted out of the ballroom. They had tested positive and would have to quarantine in Ushuaia for 7 days. They wouldn’t be traveling home with the rest of us, and Shelly and I felt so sad.


Guests that tested positive were ushered to a separate room. The hotel refused to provide them the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner we received, as they said they would not provide food on plates with utensils. Instead, they got water, a peach, and a sandwich. This was totally unacceptable. We complained to the local tour guide but there was nothing they could do. We and others smuggled some food in to them.


The guests who tested positive also learned that most of the hotels in Ushuaia were full. It wasn’t until 6:30pm that some learned of a hotel with a vacancy. They gathered their luggage and taxied off. One family of 5 managed to rent an Airbnb for the week. We kept in touch with one family via text, and they made it to the hotel, their next adventure just beginning.


At 7:15pm, we departed for the airport. We checked in, checked our bags, went through customs (they did not ask to see the Argentina Health Declaration form or proof of the negative Covid test), and sat at the gate until 10:30pm when we took off. An hour or so before we took off, our negative antigen test paperwork arrived, and the tour operators handed them out. The first flight to Aruba was 10+ hours. While I was not able to sleep, I did get some writing done, while Shelly managed to sleep. The food on the charter flight was pretty bad. It’s best if you bring your own snacks aboard.


I’m sad that the mess of the past 36 hours has dampened my trip experience. Atlas was very cavalier about returning to Ushuaia a day early (costing us one to two land excursions), having us disembark at 7:00am on our last day, and not providing a tour of Ushuaia. I believe they did all of this to get us off the ship early so they could sanitize and get the new passengers on board. As it turns out, the next cruise was cancelled 30 minutes prior to the passengers in Orlando boarding the charter flight. But, I do know my wonderful memories of Antarctica will far outlast the glitches we experienced.


Upon disembarking, Atlas should have sent a staff member to spend the day with us at the hotel and accompany us to the airport. They could have ensured passengers who tested positive were properly treated, fed, and lodged. The tour operators that stayed with us did their best, but Atlas should have taken charge and responsibility.


We made it to Aruba, collected our luggage, and went through customs. It took maybe 90 minutes and things went smoothly. However, had there been problems, there was no one from Atlas there to help us deal with it. I think Atlas needs to have a Guest Advocate accompany the guests from Orlando to boarding the ship, and disembarkation to Orlando.


We boarded our charter flight for the 2 ½ hour flight to Orlando. It went quickly, we deplaned, and headed to baggage claim where we saw Debbie and Barry, the couple we bubbled with. We saw 5 to 6 Atlas staff members guiding us to the correct carousel. Once there, we waited, and waited, and waited. Almost 90 minutes waiting for our luggage, but we finally got it. We said goodbye to Debbie and Barry and headed to the United Club Lounge near the departure gate for our final flight to Washington Dulles.


Our 7:00pm flight to Washington Dulles departed Orlando and arrived on time. We collected our luggage and drove home. It was great to be home and see our cats Lennon and McCartney greeting us at the front door. The trip experience was phenomenal. We salute the wonderous continent of Antarctica, the icebergs, the penguins, the seals, the seabirds, and the new friends we made on this trip. Shelly and I are thankful we were able to add this to our collection of experiences!



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4 Comments


marketwave200
Jan 17, 2022

Ken, I love these diary experiences and live vicariously through them. I'm glad your takeaway is mostly positive. I figure Atlas can come up with a way to reimburse you for the lost day, food and excursions. Actually, I'm sure Shelly will find a way. LOL. Love you guys.🐧

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Kathy McDowell
Kathy McDowell
Jan 17, 2022

Thank you for sharing your Antarctica experience including this less than desireable ending. I am curious to know how Atlas compensated everyone for the time they cut your cruise short. What did they provide to you and everyone else for the day you lost out on?

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Ken Murray
Ken Murray
Jan 17, 2022
Replying to

I have not heard back from Atlas yet.

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pzkwmorrissey
pzkwmorrissey
Jan 16, 2022

Thanks for the thorough writeup. It is a shame that Atlas treated everyone so poorly at the end. It says something about them as a business. They should have been apologetic and provided you a darn good reason for cutting your trip short. And you are right, they should have had someone with you every step of the way to address any problems you encountered. From what you’ve said I don’t have a good opinion of that company.

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